One Month Left

Zinnia JonesAs we approach the end of 2019, a meme has been circulating around Twitter: “there’s only ONE MONTH left in the decade. what have you accomplished?” Some have responded with a laundry list of accomplishments and ways that their lives have dramatically changed for the better. For others this was occasion for despair over the realization of how little they’ve managed to progress for a significant fraction of their lives. Still others helpfully pointed out that the decade will not actually end until the arrival of 2021, which surely takes the sting out of looking back over the past 10 years and being disappointed at your wasted decade of stagnation and underachievement.

After seeing how many people were displeased with what their lives have amounted to over this time, it occurred to me how taking this perspective played a crucial role in one of the most significant decisions of my life: transitioning. And, at least in that area of life, imagining that point of view helped me avoid an outcome of looking back on the past 10 years with regret.

By mid-2012, I had already been identifying myself and presenting as a woman for some time. Heather and I had been referring to me as her girlfriend since we first got together in April of 2011. By this time, I was starting to give serious consideration to what steps I might want to take to control my physical development and sexual characteristics. This was an intimidating prospect for me: it meant entering largely unknown territory that could only be described in terms of general changes, abstractions that did little to convey what the real and embodied experience of medically transitioning would actually be like.

In trans communities, I’ve sometimes encountered the notion – often from those in the same position I once was – that one must be absolutely certain about their decision before medically transitioning, with no remaining doubts whatsoever. But even if one’s certainty is complete and without qualification or reservation, that certainty would still be based on incomplete information: there’s plenty we simply don’t and can’t know about what that experience will be like, until we experience it.

So what compelled me to decide that I wanted to start HRT, even without knowing what that would be like? I had to work from the information I did have – namely, what it was like not to be on HRT – and extrapolate from there. I thought about how I hated having a flat chest and how good and simply normal it felt when I saw myself with breasts, even if at the time this was just a bra stuffed with rolled-up socks. I thought about how much I was repulsed by the appearance of the occasional chest hair, how I disliked having any facial hair at all, and how much I dreaded the possibility of more of it sprouting up and spreading across my body. I thought about how jarring it was when others spoke to me as if I was a man, and how affirming it was when they saw me as a woman. And I thought about how I wanted my face and body to be as feminine and un-masculinized as possible – how I often wished I could have just had the body of a cis woman from the very beginning of my life. HRT was something that, even as it couldn’t grant that wish, would nevertheless go a long way towards addressing all of these concerns.

And then I considered the alternative, the choice to take no action, imagining the “one month left in the decade” perspective. How would I feel five years from then, after five years of my body changing in the wrong direction, when I could have stopped it and set things right? What about after 10 years of that? Or 20 years? How would I feel at the end of my life if I had simply let that happen to me, never experiencing the alternative and never taking the steps to give myself what I knew I needed?

When I thought about the decision from that point of view, I realized how strongly I felt that I wasn’t up for one more year of those unwanted changes, let alone five or 10 or a lifetime. I clearly wasn’t happy with all the years of wrongness under my belt already – why would I opt for more of the same?

It hasn’t been a full decade yet, but when I saw that tweet and thought about the past ten years of my life, I realized that I could now take the perspective that I once could only imagine as a hypothetical. Being trans in this world means there are countless hostile people who are essentially betting against you, more than happy to share their expectation that your choice to transition will ultimately fall somewhere on the spectrum from unhelpful to regrettable – a conveniently open-ended prediction, never wavering in the certainty that if not in five years, then surely in 10 or 20 years you’ll bitterly regret having “mutilated” your body.

Seven years into HRT, it’s clearer than ever to me that this was the right decision. As the years have gone by, I’ve only become more comfortable, celebrating the accumulating changes that have brought me from constant anxiety about my body and its future to a place of simple contentedness and peace. It’s been seven years of acquiring the information that I previously didn’t have access to, and what I’ve learned is that there have been no second thoughts, no discomfort with these changes, no desire to go  back to letting testosterone continue actually mutilating my body.

What have I accomplished in the past decade? I made the best choice for my gender, my body, and my self.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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One Response to One Month Left

  1. Daryl Cobranchi says:

    Welcome back! You’ve been missed.

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